Massachusetts’ state and local law enforcement have launched a statewide effort to stop and cite drivers who are texting while driving in an effort to combat accidents, injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving. Last year 6,131 citations were given to distracted drivers. This was a huge bump from the 1153 given to drivers in 2011, which marked the first full year after Massachusetts passed its ban on texting while driving.
If you are caught texting and driving in Massachusetts your first offence is a fine of $100, the second is $250 and the third and all subsequent violations are $500.
April was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. In Massachusetts, more than 140 cities throughout the state held training regarding distracted driving. Distracted driving is an increasing issue that law enforcement officials are taking very seriously.
In a recent article written by the Boston Globe, Salem Police Captain Conrad Prosniewski promised that “[t]exting will be the number one thing we’ll be looking for.” However, James Graham of the Bedford Police Department pointed out that “it’s a great law, but it’s hard to enforce.”
Most officers state that it’s hard to catch a driver texting while driving because most drivers hold their phones in their laps and even when pulled over, drivers aren’t required to show their phones to officers.
Although the law itself is acting as a deterrent by forcing the driver to pay fines which increase based on number of past citations, Arlington’s Chief of Police Frederick Ryan is also using social media to educate young drivers on the dangers of texting and driving. As he told the Boston Globe, although the law allows for enforcement he believes that the education piece is “just as important as writing a ticket”.
In addition to police efforts, the Massachusetts’ State Senate approved a measure in January of this year that would require that drivers who talk on a cell phone in the car to always use a hands free device. Currently, the law states that texting is banned for all drivers. Furthermore, the law prohibits drivers under 18 years old from using phones or electronic devices at all while driving. If the measure passes, it would ban all drivers from the use of their cell phone – not just those under 18.
In recent years the number of car crashes has been steadily increasing. In fact, 2015 marked the worst year for car crashes since 1970. Distracted driving, particularly the use of cell phones while driving is a major factor in the increasing crash rage. Experts have noted that drivers have become increasingly addicted to staying connected at all times and struggle to put our cell phones down even if it could save our own lives.
With Memorial Day Weekend barely in our rear view mirrors we are quickly heading into two of the deadliest driving months of the year: July and August. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more car crashes happen during these two summer months than in any other month throughout the year.
Summer also means more teen drivers will be on the road so it is even more important for drivers to set aside their cell phones and pay attention to the road and other vehicles they share it with.
“U Drive. U Text. U Pay” is the national campaign slogan for this years Distracted Driver Awareness Month- and if you are in Massachusetts be aware that local law enforcement has taken it to heart.